This spring equinox (last Saturday), I took the day off from decorating and headed to Corbridge for a bit of inspiration and retail therapy. No trip to Corbridge is complete without popping into RE to see my friends Jenny & Simon. RE is renowned for it's creative shop displays and their current spring extravaganza made me gasp when I walked in.
It was spring, concentrated. They had taken fronds of fake cherry blossom and tied them to tall tree branches that went 10 feet into the air and arched over you as you walked underneath.
The branches grew up through holes in a long wooden table.
There was an enormous willow wreath made even more huge with spikes of cherry blossom spilling out.
It is the most fantastical scene and my photos do not do it justice.
Spare petals and flower heads were collected and put on a perforated gold plate.
Thankfully they are selling the cherry blossom branches and I immediately snapped up a few to put in my house for an instant injection of spring. I texted Helen and she popped in and bought some, bumping into another friend also purchasing several fronds. It's my recommended buy of the month maybe even season...hurry in if you want some as I don't think they still be around for long and as soon as their stock is depleted, they may have to denude the tree display to keep up with demand and that is definitely worth seeing. So simple, yet stunning.
For a more permanent look, we do a versatile cherry blossom stencil. It comes in sections and you can build and grow it in any configuration you like. Here we have stencilled it in delicate colours on top of a striped wallpaper and used the same stencil in different colours on a white cushion.
When I was a teenager Valentine's Day cards were signed with an enigmatic message and a question mark; they left you wondering whether you really had secret admirers or whether your mum was bulk buying at the post office. The other tradition was to receive a single red rose from the mystery, aspirant suitor. Is this still the case?
The date on this photo reveals that my husband gave this single, perfect, red rose in August...he's not one for tradition. I placed it in a teacup in a glass dome but thought it apt to show it for St.Valentine's Day....and if I don't sign this you won't know it's from me to you.
I had two really fun things happen on Saturday. The first was a pop-up shop/demo at RE in Corbridge by freelance florist extraordinaire Adam Prest. The second was that in the midst of snapping photos on my phone, I discovered it can add different filters. Yes, sometimes I do feel like I am late to the party. Never mind...better late than never!
photo: Nancy Gardner
First of all more about RE's Saturday Store in their own words: "We have lovingly refurbished the old petrol pump attendants kiosk which originally came from the garage forecourt next to our store. Each Saturday our lovely little post war shop on wheels will be rolled into position outside our Corbridge store and will play host to invited experts and artisans showcasing their wares from home-made food to flowers, books, jewellery and much more…"
I've missed the first few (vintage tea party and dogtography), but managed to get to Adam's Saturday Store. Adam creates beautiful informal floral arrangements with a stunning array of different blooms, many of which he grows himself. No wonder he is in such demand that he only had two Saturdays off the whole of 2014. The idea was to bring unusual containers for Adam to work his floral magic with or just watch him create relaxed yet sumptuous bouquets and learn tricks of the trade.
I brought along two small swan vases from my vast wedding collection. Sometimes it is the small containers that are most challenging to fill with flowers, at least for me. So I was keen to see how best to make use of these vases without losing the shape.
First of all Adam filled them with loose scrunched up balls of copper wire (beautiful in themselves) as an alternative to oasis foam. Then with the addition of a few dahlias and some foliage, they were done. The key is not to overfill them so that you don't lose sight of the swan aspect. Pale white dahlias tinged with pink were used in the white vase
and a stronger pink with wisps of yellow were used in a blue vase.
Yet again, I was inspired by the array of colours in flowers and how well they work together even when spanning ends of the spectrum. Bright can go with subtle, or with more bright. Colours can clash. It was all just so fab to look at and so inspiring.
I love this wreath that he has created complete with cow's skull, moss covered pebbles (bought at RE) and fur. Adam is not afraid to add the occasional unexpected ingredient to his displays.
photo: Nancy Gardner
I can only recommend that you take a look at Adam's website where he has a huge gallery of photos of his fantastic work.
And check out RE's website for forthcoming Saturday Store events. Each one promises to be inspiring and interesting.
My friend Jeanne picked this bunch of physalis from her garden for me.
The plants are part of the nightshade family and are pretty nondescript until autumn when their orange lantern-like bracts fill our Northern English flower beds with colour. I used to have a border of them but over zealous weeding finished them off. I could really do with some more.
I place the heads in bowls around the house.
Some people string them with cotton. They fade to a pale biscuit colour then the skeletons of the bracts become exposed and resemble fragile filigree.
We have some pretty stencils of leaf skeletons in our Vintage Collection at The Stencil Library.
The first one is VN292 Autumn Leaves stencil and the second stencil of a leaf is VN151. The stencils are large and look fabulous on a wall, I am hoping to stencil some fabric with them soon.
The fruit of some physalis is edible.
When I wrote Stencil It I gilded the fruit with edible gold powder as an extra decoration for my stencilled cake.
Are your planters looking pretty ropey? Here is how to make them look pretty and ropey!
Scrub the plant pots before painting. I used left over emulsion (latex) paint.
I have painted many of my pots with standard household paint and they have survived the Northumberland climate for many years. The paint used for this project was by Ballgown by Crown and Old White from Annie Sloan
Tip: When stencilling a curved area do not attempt to stick all of the stencil to the surface. Just affix as much stencil as the surface will allow and as each area is completed roll the stencil so that the adjoining area is in full contact with the stencil. Try to select motif stencils rather than repeat patterns or borders on rounded surfaces.
To stencil the pattern take up a little paint onto a brush or sponge and work away the excess onto paper towel. The paint should be damp not wet when dabbed through the stencil.
Give the pots a couple of days to settle into their new coats before moving them to the garden.
If a coastal garden theme is preferred to the nautical idea try using the rope stencil with a contrast of grey or taupe paint instead of navy blue and white. Either way, you can create a ship shape corner of the patio or yard and that is knot a bad idea.
Come back soon to see how to stencil the matching chairs, I promise there will be no more bad puns
In the summer of 2011 my friend Betty from took me to Chanticleer in Wayne, Pennsylvania which is around a half hour drive from Philadelphia. It was a humid day and the temperature bubbled in the high nineties. But we had water, sensible shoes, paper fans and a picnic. We had a delightful time exploring the garden. Here is a little of what we saw.
There are many garden rooms at Chanticleer which are just that....rooms in a garden.
I call them 'sitooteries' because you sit out in them.
Stencilled chairs anyone? Similar chestnut leaf and bamboo designs can be found at The Stencil Library. There are many sitooteries at Chanticleer, I like the outdoor floral arrangements that feature in many of them.
Water is another big feature at Chanticleer, there are fountains,
and water features that mirror the sky,
I call them sky pools and have mini versions in my garden made from shallow, dark bowls.
I'll stop writing now as this is becoming a long post. I can sum up Chanticleer Garden in two words...
Chanticleer is not open every day, so please check first. I would hate you to be disappointed.
All photos my own, to see better ones visit their facebook page.
As I mentioned in my previous post, one of the main elements for my wedding decor was to be an abundance of fresh flowers. I love flowers. I usually have fresh flowers in the house somewhere. It is my little indulgence. In particular, I love traditional English flowers: roses,
who owns the florist Scarlet & Violet in London, just as I was starting to try and organise ideas in my head. The word “vintage” caught my eye, but once I opened the book, I knew I had found the perfect inspiration for my wedding flowers.
Vic does exactly the type of informal thing I love in flowers. I found most of my suppliers by recommendation, but the florist I chose I knew of already: Marion at JA Stobo Florists, Main Road, Wylam. She always has a great and varied selection of flowers unlike what you usually find in florists. She is also local to me and I tried to use local suppliers for the wedding wherever possible. When I needed some flowers for a photo shoot a couple of years ago, I went there and bought three massive hydrangea heads in the most wonderful shade of blue.
I wouldn’t have found them anywhere else. So in I went armed with my book, hoping Marion would “see” my vision. She immediately got excited by the project. The brief was to make it look as though I had gone out and denuded the garden in the morning. Each arrangement was to be different, there was no colour preferences and arrangements were to look blousy and informal. The only thing I did was collect vintage containers, in particular swan planters (swans mate for life so I thought it was a nice motif),
and give her a list of flowers I didn’t want (nothing too architectural, exotic or modern looking). Then I just had to leave her to it on the day. I saw the bridal party bouquets before the wedding ceremony, but I had to wait to see the table decorations until I walked into the marquee with everyone else. I must admit, I was nervous. When I get an idea, I have a very clear vision of what I want. Usually I execute it myself, but this time I was going to have to relinquish control entirely and hope that Marion had interpreted my vision perfectly. And I am not very good at relinquishing control.
Stephen and I had such fun collecting vintage vases and planters leading up to the wedding. All in all we were able to provide Marion with about 35 of them.
Our pride and joy was the giant swan planter we found on ebay at the last minute. We had been looking and looking and looking, but everything was wrong being either too stylised or too modern. With about a month to go, the perfect one came up, thankfully on a “Buy it Now” option because I don’t think my nerves could have taken an auction this close to the wedding. We instructed Marion to really go to town with him. He was to go on a table right inside the door so you'd see him first.
We were the last to walk into the marquee. We walked in as the DJ announced us and I scanned the room looking at all our fab friends and family who had come to our wedding, some of them from great distances. And then I looked at the flowers. I could have wept with joy. Marion and her team had excelled themselves. The large swan was resplendent.
Even Stephen was impressed. Generally he thinks flowers are nice, but he's a bloke so doesn't give them much thought. But the swan made an impression.
The tables looked amazing.
So many guests commented on them. Afterwards Marion said they had so much fun because they were able to use such a variety of flowers,
and each one was different with no rules, so they really got to be creative.
Because Stephen and I had bought a house 6 months ago, we had to use the honeymoon fund to cover solicitor’s fees and stamp duty (tax) so we stayed in Ryton for our post wedding break. It meant that we had the luxury of really enjoying the flowers as I brought them all home. (You can just see the wellies poking out of the boot of my car. I had them on standby to wear with my wedding dress should the weather have misbehaved on the day - one has to be prepared. Thankfully, they stayed in the car as the weather was perfect).
They looked great scattered throughout our little house. They were everywhere because we had about 35 arrangements and not a great deal of space.
We even put a few up the stairs because we ran out of places to put them. They lasted for another week, with a few lasting nearly two weeks.
The beautiful foxgloves from the giant swan lasted nearly a month. They provided, as they should, a great deal of joy and for a short spell, I could immerse myself in floral heaven, our house looking as though I had been extremely extravagant with flowers.
We haven’t done anything with our little garden this year because we needed to see what would come up. We moved in in winter when the garden was bare. My hope is to really plant up the garden over the next few years so that I shall have my own source of flowers to use. Already there is an abundance of rose bushes (about 60, but some are not looking so good so may need attention or replacing), hydrangea, foxgloves and a few things I haven’t identified yet not being very up on flowers, much as I love them. I have a lot to learn and a lot to do, but it will be fun.
Photographs by Stephen Egglestone, Helen Morris and Deborah Langford.
Last week I showed you that Chips and I were trying to make our overgrown garden at The Stencil Library into a venue worthy of a wedding.
The bride was Rachel Morris. Rachel is the manager at The Stencil Library, my cousin and co author of this blog. The guests met on the lawn for champagne and photos then made their way through the garden and orchard to the wedding marquee for afternoon tea.
Rachel and her bridegroom decorated the marquee with an abundance of painted silk lanterns from China which looked fab. However, news and pics of her special day are for her to share and I will just concentrate on taking you around the garden which used the same lanterns to form a link between indoor and outdoor spaces.
The guests had use of the garden all evening and so electric, solar and battery lamps were used to keep the paths iluminated and low branches visible. The evening pics were taken around 9.45.
We were so lucky to have two weeks of warm sun leading up to the day because our winter was long and spring eluded us so flowers that would have been finished by mid June were shimmering in their finery along side the guests.
Currently coveting a recycled, Chippendale original. That would be a large table for the garden from Chippendale Revival. Garden and home furniture; Sourced, designed and re-purposed in Sussex by my brother in law Peter Chippendale. I saw this table in 2010, I'm sure that it's sold by now but I still think it's gorgeous.